Valve's Inconsistent Rules On Sexy Steam Games Continue To Baffle Devs

Developers of games with sexual content are saying that Steam is threatening to remove their games, and they don't know why. Last week, at least four developers said that they had received emails from Steam saying that their games, some of which had been on the platform for years with Valve's blessing, had been reported for "pornographic" content.

These developers said that they have to take out said content or risk having their games removed from the platform two weeks from now.

Steam's policies on sexual content on their platform are hardly clear, and they seem to fluctuate over time. In 2012, when games with sexual content were being pulled from the now defunct Steam Greenlight program, Valve said that, "Steam has never been a leading destination for erotic material." Sex games could still make it on Steam, though, usually with the developers linking to patches that would uncensor the games.

In 2015, the yuri visual novel Kindred Spirits made it onto Steam without any censorship, and in general, a number of more sexually explicit games could often be seen on the new releases tab. At the time, it looked like Valve was beginning to ease up on their policies regarding risque content. In 2017, Valve forbid developers of game with sexual content to talk about or link to patches that would allow players to uncensor their games.

In July of 2017, Steam started removing sexually explicit games from the storefront again. House Party, a bawdy joke game with a button dedicated to whipping out your dick, was taken down and then re-uploaded after the developers added censor bars.

Adding confusion to what type of games are allowed on the platform, in 2017, Christine Love, a friend of mine, eventually got her sexually explicit visual novel Ladykiller In A Bind on Steam. The game, which was a lesbian visual novel about BDSM, allowed players to skip sex scenes. Love also added a "safe for work" mode that puts novelty Christmas sweaters on everyone, thereby censoring the nudity.

What this timeline suggests is that It's never been been easy for developers to understand what is or isn't allowed on Steam, as the policies seem inconsistently applied, or prone to change.

Now, several developer's have said that games that have been on Steam, some of them for years, have gotten emails threatening their removal because of sexual content.

Last week, the developer Lupiesoft, makers of the sexy visual novel Mutiny!!, posted a tweet to the studio's Twitter account saying they got an email from Steam that said that "[Steam] has decided to pull down our titled "Mutiny!!" within 2 weeks for 'reports of pornographic content.'" According to Lupiesoft, while the game features uncensored breasts, there is no penetration of genitalia in the Steam version.

Huniepot, the developers of titilliating match-3 game Huniepop, and Neko Works, developers of risque cat girl visual novel Neko Para, made similar tweets about their games.

MangaGamer, publisher of Kindred Spirits, said in a blog post that they also received such an email. While some games hit by this wave are arguably more sexual than others, Kindred Spirits's sexual content is very limited. Rather than a game about having sex, it's an exploration of female sexuality, with some uncensored breasts after many hours of gameplay.

What's especially confusing about some of these removal notices is that some of these games didn't sneak onto the platform according to their creators. "We went to great pains to run the game's content by Valve representatives — — including sending along every potentially questionable graphical asset along with advanced builds of the title — — to ensure that that feeling was mutual," a representative from MangaGamer wrote in a blog post concerning the potential removals of Kindred Spirits.

"The game would have never appeared on the platform if we had not confirmed with Valve representatives that they did not feel the content was pornographic and was appropriate for the platform."

Peter Rasmussen, a developer for Lupiesoft, says that the game's sales on Steam account for 80 per cent of their revenue. "We're at least half a year away from releasing our next game," Rasmussen, a developer with the studio said over email, "so [the removal of Mutiny!! from Steam] could potentially ruin us." Mutiny!! Is certainly a titillating game, though, like Neko Para and Huniepop, it is censored on Steam, only showing bare breasts in-game.

If you visit the website for Mutiny!!, you'll see instructions for how to download an "Adult Patch" and the game features explicit sex scenes with penetration and genitalia on other platforms like MangaGamer and Nutaku.

Rasmussen said that the guidelines of what is or isn't allowed lack specificity. "They're vague in the sense that they say 'Pornography' is banned, and that is a very broad term which means different things to different people," Rasmussen said. "I think the most natural definition is any subject matter that shows aroused genitals or penetration (which Mutiny!! does not)."

Some games that are on Steam, like The Witcher III, have sex scenes and nudity that look pretty explicit, despite not showing penetration or genitalia, just like Mutiny!! Kotaku reached out to Valve for comment but did they did not respond in time for publication.

Rasmussen said that he hopes this is all an algorithm error. Other developers seem frustrated by the sudden, apparent change in policy. "Despite our best efforts to respect both the letter and spirit of Valve's content guidelines as we were made to understand them, we are wholly in the dark with this latest apparent shift in policy as no clear guidelines or standards have been provided," a representative from MangaGamer wrote in their blog post on the situation.

Time will only tell if these games will be on Steam by the end of the month, or if more developers will be left wondering if their games are just too sexy.


Comments

    Its not my thing, but its probably time Steam added a 'NSFW' toggle that allows you to view these games for purchase or something, maybe even tie browsing to recorded age and credit cards or something.

    For those who find such games enjoyable, who should we be to say who can and can't enjoy it as long as its legal in your country.

      Exactly. There's got to be some relatively easy way to accurately confirm age for the account. If it's 18+ then allow the person to toggle between seeing adult games or not.

      While I can't see myself buying or playing any of these games I don't see why a consenting adult shouldn't be allowed to buy, download and play them. What would be interesting to know is what is happening to people who've already bought one of these games on steam? If the game is removed from Steam does it stay in a person's PC? What happens if they lose a HDD and need to reinstall it? Is the game they've legitimately paid for suddenly unavailable?

      Pretty sure most of these games are already age gated with the standard enter your age and adults clause before you view the actual store page

      steam didnt say no you cant enjoy it. steam said they dont want to be a platform selling games that are close to ponography. everyone knows how drawings on anime games are...its more than mere nudity.

      I agree on the separate platform thing. get them out of steam.

    To add to the confusion is Valve is Steam, and Valve has always been stalwart, silent and impossible to communicate with. (ASIC had to subpeona them because they could talk, because they weren't answering emails or phones). Its always been that way, Digital Homicide, CSGO skin trading, ASIC, EU policy inquiries... its always been serve them papers before they respond!!!

    Who the hell achieved the impossible and can talk and change Valves opinion directly?
    Even now the developers/press/users can't even reach Valve to discuss or comment?

    So, how did someone get into Valve's ear and tell them they had to do this???
    Cause in the past you couldn't get banned (actually got unbanned) as a developer even if you made a death threat against GabeN?

    Even when they do ban someone the Terms of Service claim is usually very clear, this is ambiguous and selective apply to a small genre of games and not equally across the whole platform.

    They claim to be a free and open market, that they can't imply quality control... but here they are behind the scenes making unjustified and selective calls on what is and isn't on their platform. So if they can do this, I want all the unity asset flips and other garbage/scam games off the platform to protect consumers, cause Valve lied, they can screen games?

    They need to add ESRB/PEGI compliant age classification systems (C, PG, M, R) with account verifications and parental controls. That is one of the recommendations made to them instead of banning games... cause Americans are really uptight about Censorship invading rights of individuals freedoms.

    Ugh.. The sooner they remove this weabo [email protected] off Steam the better.
    I'm not sure what happened this year, but it seems like there's new japerotic fiction games out every day on Steam.

    Of all games genres, this would have to be one which would thrive on its own platform/launcher.

    Sounds like there is a market for a developer to create a digital erotica version of Steam.

    If the demand is there, the platform will thrive.

      Humble and a few other Steam Key sellers, also include DRM Free versions and separate installs. The games are not going to disappear or not get place on store fronts, especially now!

      Theres a number of them, DLsite being one of the largest, which also pre-dates Steam by 7 years. Nutaku is another, although far more recent and having its origins in F2P online smutty games but building up a catalogue of purchasable content.

    Ii don't understand why steam does this considering both Conan exiles and witcher 3 with are both on steam have nudity so what's the difference , I will never understand why people just think because they don't like ecchi content means its offensive or problematic why can't you leave it on steam and let us enjoy our visual novels and other games like it.

      Don't forget the male and female nudity (uncensored) in GTAV... there are simulated sex scenes and a minigame to seduce strippers who are giving you lap dances.

      Cartoon tiddies are bad!
      3D render tiddies with dedicated boob physics are okay! Jiggle jiggle jiggle.
      #priorities

      It will be interesting to see the double standard that plays out when you see which games survive the cut!

    Update to this story that should be placed in the article.

    Steam has gotten back in contact with some of the devs and said the original message should be disregarded and that steam is in the process of re-reviewing the game and will follow up with the devs soon

    https://twitter.com/HuniePotDev/status/997979877977436160

      "re-review" which is double speak.

      A) We haven't changed our minds, but we will come up with a better way to ban you later when the heat is off.
      B) Some executive is now shitting himself cause he didn't clear this with PR or GabeN.

      Think the fact there was a review, in the first place should be questioned?
      What motivated this review? Was their an actual review in the first place, or is this a renegade decision inside Valve? Why the immediate action? and whats changed?

        Just about guarantee the officially unoffficial policy is that stuff gets put up based on how many complaints staff reckon it will generate, and these ‘reviews’ happening are in response to a wave of complaints above the expected/accepted level (I assume some grassroots anti-weeb brigade going on).

          Jim Sterling has a good episode on what's happening, as far as anyone knows. Apparently some MAC style group has claimed they are responsible and they plan to go after Witcher 3 and GTA5 next. Apparently they did so by appealing to PayPal who threatened Steam.

            SidAlpha also covered it. I'll be interested in seeing how The Witcher 3 and GTA5 are handled, given that both have already been attacked by self proclaimed do-gooders who think they're the arbiters of sensibility.

              Those titles also generated a LOT more money. The kind of money that can tell people to fuck off.

          Thats pretty much whats happened. Some lobbying grpup has claimed responsibility for this by pretty much confessing they sent a crap ton of complaints against these vns.... go after low hanging fruit first which are easier to target ie. VNs since they dont have the backing of a multi billion dollar publisher then claim a "victory"

            So it's do-gooder assholes who think they have the right to decide other peoples morality to blame? That would explain it. Pity Valve are kowtowing to them.

            If the system (Steam) has proper age-gating then screw the lobby group. It's their own fault if their kids see some anime boobs because they didn't set parental controls. Don't ruin everyone else's access just because you're a lousy parent.

    And here I was thinking Genital Jousting would be first against the wall when the revolution came.

    (All puns intended)

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